With new vax rules, Wu shows her regional stripes
Boston mayor includes Greater Boston officials in policy rollout
WHEN MAYOR MICHELLE WU convened a press conference on Monday to announce a new vaccine mandate for Boston restaurants and other indoor locations it looked more like a mini gathering of the Massachusetts Municipal Association than the rollout of a policy focused on the state’s capital city.
Among those there alongside Boston’s new mayor were Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone, Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll, and Raul Fernandez, the vice chair of the Brookline Select Board.
Boston’s mayor has a political profile much greater than that of fellow municipal leaders. Indeed, the city’s mayor is generally regarded as one of the top political officials in the state – alongside the governor, the state’s two US senators, and top statewide officials. The mayor represents a community that is roughly the size of a congressional district, but commands far more regular attention than any of the state’s House members.
With that in mind, Wu and her team reached out to leaders in the region to let them know about the plan to announce new vaccine rules and to invite a handful of them to be part of the announcement. Others, including the mayors of Cambridge, Medford, and Melrose, and town administrators in Arlington and Brookline, provided statements applauding the new Boston policy and signaling they might follow suit.
Wu is “taking bold steps to address big problems, but she’s not going to do it alone but will bring us to try to figure out the right steps and do it with us,” said Fernandez, who spoke at the City Hall press briefing. “Especially in relation to this pandemic, if one community takes a step and others don’t, the impact is going to be really muted.”
Wu’s office echoed that sentiment. “The collaborative approach to the new policy reflects our shared interests across city limits and town lines, and the understanding that residents regularly cross into other communities for work, travel, and recreation,” a city spokesperson said.
Brookline’s select board was slated to take up the issue of enacting similar regulations last night as was Somerville’s city council.
“Parochialism and provincialism have held us back for a long time,” said Curtatone, who also spoke at the briefing. Curtatone, who is leaving office next month after 18 years as Somerville’s mayor, has for the last decade chaired the Metropolitan Mayors Coalition, a group started by Tom Menino during his long reign as Boston mayor. Curtatone said Marty Walsh continued the regional approach during his tenure, but he’s been excited to see Wu embrace the collaborative style so quickly out of the gate.
“Having Mayor Wu come in and right off the bat seek out others and regional collaboration – that’s big,” said Curtatone.
The quirks of Massachusetts history have created separate municipalities across the Boston area that, in other places, would have been incorporated into a much larger city.
Fernandez said Wu’s inclination to reach out regionally predates her election last month as mayor. Wu’s focus on public transportation issues as a city councilor was another example of something with a big impact on Boston that also affects other communities in the region.“I remember from a few years back with the efforts that Michelle was really leading around transit and stopping fare hikes. She would do outreach to folks like me in Brookline to join her and be part of it,” said Fernandez. “And she would share the spotlight with other folks. The press would be there, and she would say, ‘You should talk to Raul, you should talk to Joe,’ or whoever was there. That kind of approach is so refreshing and so needed.”
It also shows a keen understanding of the most basic mathematical principle of politics: Getting things done is a game of addition.